Sheffield United: David predicts historic battle

Key man: David McAllister has cemented his place in Shrewsbury's midfield after leaving Bramall Lane
Key man: David McAllister has cemented his place in Shrewsbury's midfield after leaving Bramall Lane

IT is best known for its historic abbey and quaint medieval streets, writes James Shield.

But tomorrow, when Sheffield United roll into town, David McAllister believes Shrewsbury will be the scene of a sporting battle every bit as fierce as 1403’s showdown between King Henry IV and ‘Hotspur’ Percy.

“We both need to get the result albeit for very different reasons,” he told The Star. “I can’t see any quarter being given.

“Neither of us are going to want to give an inch.”

McAllister, the genial Irishman with an acerbic edge, has been cast a key role in this pivotal League One contest.

United, where he spent two years after leaving St Patrick’s Athletic, know that failing to prevail could see them slip out of the play-off positions for the first time since September. Town, placed 18th, are perilously close to the relegation zone having won only once in five and twice in nine.

Friendships, as well as technique and mental fortitude, will be put to the test.

“It feels a little bit strange to be facing United,” McAllister said. “I’m still trying to get my head around it now but when I get my first whack I’ll forget all about that.

“It’s all a bit weird at the moment because I know I’ll be competing against some really good mates. Lads I got on with and whose company I really enjoyed.

“I’ve only played against them in training before so this is going to be very different.

“Mind you, that’s not going to stop them going looking for me. I know that Doyler (Michael Doyle) will want to leave one on me so I’ll be watching and waiting for that.

“When there’s a match there to be won then personal feelings don’t come in to it. I want to come out on top and so will they.”

McAllister, aged 24, made 30 appearances for the visitors, scoring four goals in the process.

One of those, of course, came six months ago against the club he would later join on a permanent basis following a successful loan spell at Greenhous Meadow last term.

“Graham Turner tried to get me back in the summer but United didn’t want to let me go,” McAllister continued. “When the fixtures came out the first one I looked for were the ones against Shrewsbury.

“I really enjoyed my time in Sheffield and I’ve got nothing but good memories about the place.

“It’s a great club to be at and, after this match, it goes without saying that I wish them all the best.

“Everyone, the staff, the fans and the rest of the lads were brilliant with me.

“It was a big move for me, coming to England, but there was quite a big Irish contingent there when I arrived and that definitely helped me to settle.

“I’m still in touch with quite a few of the lads I used to knock about with. People like Macca (Kevin McDonald) and Ryan Flynn.

“Quinny (Stephen Quinn) went to Hull but he was still living in the city.

“I used to live just off Ecclesall Road and so I had the best of both worlds really.

“It was close to the ground and not far from training but there were lots of things to go out and do too.”

Turner, the Town manager, might not have many household names at his disposal but United, who travel south today in sixth, know their promotion credentials face a rigorous examination.

Yado Mambo, a towering defender, has impressed since arriving on loan from Charlton Athletic.

Fellow centre-half Rob Edwards, scheduled to spend another three weeks in Shropshire before rejoining Barnsley, boasts a wealth of experience at both Championship and international level while Marvin Morgan, the former Aldershot and Yeading striker, lends a physical presence to an attack spearheaded by Luke Rodgers and Paul Parry.

Rodgers, of course, progressed through Town’s youth system and boasts spells at New York Red Bulls and Lillestrom on his CV.

However, Turner was last night hoping to enter the emergency loan market after learning that winger Mark Wright has suffered a set-back in his fight against a niggling knee complaint.

“It was a really disappointing 48 hours up to the end of the transfer window but for us things open again for business on Friday,” Turner said yesterday.

“I am waiting for answers from two clubs about the loan players. One or two managers owe me favours.”

Town, beaten 1-0 by United on the opening day of the league season, enhanced their survival prospects with a deserved victory at Preston North End six days ago.

The visitors, who are sixth, hope to build on an encouraging second-half display against Coventry City despite eventually being edged out 2-1.

“Having lost at home against Coventry last Friday, they are coming under more pressure so it’s a good time to be playing them, particularly after our result at Preston,” Turner said.

“Preston and Coventry are big clubs, but Sheffield United is the biggest of the lot.

“It will be a challenge for the players. But the Preston win has lifted confidence and done us the world of good.”

McAllister, despite failing to command a regular berth in United’s first choice eleven, has started Town’s last three games following his move there last month.

“It’s helped that I know the area already,” he said. “It’s a lovely part of the world.”

*Twitter: JamesShield1